The recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal, Robert Edsel is a prolific writer and compelling speaker. The upcoming movie, “The Monuments Men,” directed by and starring George Clooney, is based on his research into the fate of European art treasures that survived the carnage of World War II, and the unsung heroes that rose to the occasion to save them from destruction.
(Sarasota, FL) Robert Edsel, the recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal, and author of numerous books, including Rescuing Da Vinci, and The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, will headline The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee’s “People of the Book” event, March 10, 2014, 7 p.m., at Riverview High School, 1 Ram Way, in Sarasota. Ina Schnell is the event chair; event partners include The Ringling, Sarasota Magazine and The Observer Group. Tickets are free with a minimum, tax-deductible gift of $36 (individual) or $72 (family) to the development efforts of The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee. Reservations are required and can be made on the Federation’s website, www.jfedsrq.org/events.aspx, or by calling Jennifer New at 941-552-6304. Sponsorship opportunities are also available; call Len Steinberg for details at 941-552-6301.
Robert Edsel is a true modern Renaissance man—a prolific writer, compelling speaker and former entrepreneur in the oil and gas industry. Untiring research is his hallmark. It became Edsel’s passion when he began investigating the Nazi villains who looted Europe of its arts treasures—and the Allied heroes who saved many of them. Today, we know this small band of brothers as “The Monuments Men.”
Edsel’s research became the foundation for his books, including Rescuing Da Vinci; The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History; and Saving Italy: The Race To Rescue a Nation’s Treasures From the Nazis. Edsel is the founder and president of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, which received the 2007 National Humanities Medal under President George W. Bush. He has donated two albums of photographic evidence of the Third Reich’s theft of art treasures to the United States National Archives. He was also tapped as the consultant for The Monuments Men, a movie directed by and starring George Clooney, set to open in February 2014.
According to Howard Tevlowitz, executive director of The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee, the Monuments Men Foundation’s main mission is to discover all of the original leather-bound albums of photos of stolen paintings, furniture, and other cultural treasures. “In 1945 the members of the MFAA found 39 original albums assembled by Hitler’s special task force,” says Tevlowitz. “Along with other records, these albums documented the art that Hitler stole for his intended museum in Austria. These albums are just the tip of the iceberg because hundreds of thousands of cultural items are still missing.”
According to Edsel, the foundation’s tireless quest for these albums is based on a simple conviction. “Art defines who we are as a culture,” he says. “It’s a legacy of our heritage. A sad, empty world would exist if it weren’t for the beauty of architecture, books, tapestries, sculpture, monuments, and other works of art. These albums—used as evidence during the Nuremberg Trials—have become important documents to humanity. I hope that these past discoveries will encourage other members of the MFAA and their families, as well as other veterans, to look in their attics and basements for any wartime items that might help unravel the unsolved mystery.”
Edsel expresses hope that the release of The Monuments Men film will increase public awareness for the treasures that remain to be found.
“It’s a beautiful movie with a powerful message,” he says. “It shows how a cultural legacy can continue to thrive thanks to the heroic efforts of a few. I’m hoping The Monuments Men will provoke others to share knowledge of the whereabouts of the treasures that belong to our civilization. I’m also hopeful that, after viewing this film, the descendants of these heroes will learn more about the bravery and the vital role that their fathers and grandparents played.”
The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to save Jewish lives and enhance Jewish life in the Sarasota-Manatee region, in Israel, and throughout the world. In addition, the Federation is responsive when worldwide catastrophes occur. For more information about The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee, call 941-371-4546 or visit www.TheJewishFederation.org.